The Basics of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

Chronic fatigue syndrome often begins abruptly, but sometimes the onset is gradual. In about one-third of cases, the sudden onset follows a respiratory, gastrointestinal or other acute infection with flu-like symptoms, including mononucleosis. Other cases develop after emotional or physical traumas such as bereavement or surgery.

Besides a debilitating fatigue, which is unalleviated by rest, common symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • more intense or changed patterns of headaches
  • reduced short-term memory or concentration
  • recurrent sore throats
  • tender lymph nodes
  • muscle discomfort or pain
  • joint pain without joint swelling or redness
  • unrefreshing sleep

The severity of chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms varies broadly among individuals.

Some chronic fatigue syndrome patients also report mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety or depression. However, it is important to note that 60 percent of carefully evaluated chronic fatigue syndrome patients do not have depression or another psychiatric illness.

Some studies have found that allergies are significantly more common in CFS patients than in the general population. Many CFS patients have a history of allergies years before the onset of the syndrome. Sometimes patients report a worsening of allergic symptoms or the onset of new allergies after becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome. Because allergies are so common in people with chronic fatigue syndrome, it is important to identify symptoms caused by allergies so they can be treated independently.

Although CFS can persist for many years, long-term studies indicate that chronic fatigue syndrome generally is not a progressive illness. The symptoms usually are most severe in the first year or two. Thereafter, the symptoms typically stabilize and then persist chronically, wax and wane, or improve. Most patients partially recover, only a few fully recover and others recover and relapse. Currently, an individual's course of illness cannot be predicted. No long-term health risks have been associated with having chronic fatigue syndrome.

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)

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